Exceptional train, a luxury that still makes you dream

Piano Bar on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, the Belmond Group’s luxury train that connects Paris to Venice or Verona. Matt Hind

Decryption – Inheriting the mythology of the Orient-Express, rail cruises tend to fill up. While waiting for new actors to arrive, getting a seat in one of these palaces on the rails always requires more patience.

Orient-Express, Royal Scotsman, Trans-Siberian… the mere mention of these names is enough to take us to imagine great rail journeys. That long time, steam engine, decorated with refined service and decoration car woodwork, gilding and embellished with precious cloth. On the scale of a region, a country or a continent, for a night, a few days or even a week, dozens of exceptional trains throughout the world perpetuate this myth of railways, e.g. Rovos-Rail In South Africa,Eastern and Oriental Express Between Thailand and Singapore or Venice Simplon-Orient-Express Between Paris and Venice.

If environmental concerns encourage more people to favor plain trains,” Ecology is not the primary concern of customers booking a rail cruisesaid Laure Jacquet, director of Discovery Trains, a French expert on rail travel. Nevertheless, its tendency slow travel May attract new travelers in search of more mindful tourism. For customers, mainly retirees, such rail travel is an opportunity” Live a unique experience, out of time, that should not be like any other travel

A very secretive market

The Orient Silk Road Express passes through several Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, etc.) along the ancient Silk Road. Roland Jung

To take this legendary train, you have to pay the price. For one night on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express or a weeklong cruise Al Andalus (in Andalusia, Spain), it is necessary to calculate at least 5000 € per person. The comfort of the cabin varies according to the number of stages. ” Keep in mind that luxury trains are a highly niche market, unlike ocean and river cruises which offer more variety in price, comfort and itineraries. Explains Lionel Rabiet, director of Voyages d’Exception (formerly Croisières d’Exception).

Places are therefore expensive in both senses of the word. Accommodating about fifty passengers with only a few departures per month on the prestigious trains, they fill up quickly and you need to anticipate at least a year in advance. And tickets available two years after the pandemic are even fewer. The two agencies are actually looking at the massive postponement that may not happen in 2020 and 2021. Willing to travel Stronger than everAnd with the savings made during the pandemic, some travelers won’t hesitate to treat themselves to a luxury train stay “says Lionel Rabiet.” If you’re planning a rail cruise in 2023, no matter the destination, now is the time to book Recommended by Laure Jacquet.

Among the routes, demand is traditionally highest in Europe. Trans Siberian A booking rate experienced ” exceptional 2021 for 2022, according to Discovery Train, which now includes Russia’s expert Tsar Voyages. But Russia’s geopolitical context makes this circuit impractical…Orient Silk Road Express, a train that follows the Central Asian Silk Road (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, etc.) is an alternative to the Trans-Siberian, of similar length and journey time. A circuit that Voyages d’exception has just added to its catalog (“The legendary Silk Road”, departures in October 2022).

New actors in Ambush

A suite of future Orient-Express Dolce Vita trains to be launched by Accor Group in 2023. Orient Express La Dolce Vita rendering by Dimorestudio

Despite the expected influx of new players, “ Supply is and always will be below demand », warned Lionel Rabiet. In 2023, Puy du Fou plans to launch “ Grand Tour » A six-day, 4,000 km itinerary.Discover the splendor of France», with shows on board. Ticket price: €4900 per person. Also in 2023, Accor Hotels Group, in partnership with Italian national company Trenitalia, intends to revive the myth of the Orient-Express by launching Dolcevita Italian Rail (price not given). ” An innovative concept that breaks with the 1920s theme, common on most luxury trains, in favor of a 1960s Italian lifestyle. », emphasizes Laure Jacquet.

beside him, midnight train It aims to promote its “rail hotels” in around ten destinations departing from Paris from 2024. If the young French company poses above all as a competitor to planes rather than as an operator of luxury trains, it will adopt codes with the development of a restaurant car, a cocktail bar and cabin rooms with different categories of comfort. Paris-Venice and Paris-Barcelona routes are planned for 2024, before the network expands to other European destinations such as Edinburgh, Rome and Copenhagen.

Passengers have exceptional train options if they can’t find a seat or don’t have enough budget. ” Mythical routes can still be taken with regular commercial trains of national companies “Lore Jacquet recalls. For example, the Orient-Express between Paris and Istanbul, the new Paris-Vienna night train, could be done in two to three days, then continue to Budapest and Bucharest. Less expensive and less comfortable, no doubt. No. But just as poetic.

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